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Our letter this week is R, and the important fringe word is READ!

read

READ is a very important academic word, which is why we teach it at school. All students, including preverbal students and students who are emerging communicators, deserve instruction and access to literacy skills. Many of our students will become readers. All of our students can increase their ability to respond to and use text in their communities. Reading is important for everyone.

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But how do we teach the *word* “read”?

BY READING, SILLY!

Yes, it’s true. The best way to teach children about reading is by reading. Who knew?

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Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr is a great book to use, since every page has a picture of an animal interacting with the book. It is also great for working on negation, because every page except the first is showing what *not* to do with a book!

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You Can Read by Helaine Becker and Mark Hoffman is another great book to read, to talk about reading. The word “read” is on every page, and the book goes through all of the different places you can read a book! Also nice for working on “where” questions.

Or… just read! Any book you want! Kids learn to read by watching adults read, and by reading fun books with adults, and by exploring books on their own. Any interaction with a book is a good interaction.

Head to your local library, and get reading!

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quiet

QUIET is another fringe vocabulary word that is very useful for students, particularly at school.

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The Quiet Book by Renata Liwska and Deborah Underwood is a gem that I discovered as I was searching for books using the word “quiet”. Every page describes a different kind of “quiet” – right before a surprise quiet, sleepy in bed quiet, best friends don’t need to talk quiet – and has beautiful illustrations as well. I like that every page has the word “quiet” on it, and none of the pages have too many words, making it a good book for emerging communicators and minimally verbal students.

It is tempting to practice “quiet” only by telling students to be quiet – in the library, when teacher is talking, when parents are giving directions. It is true that adults do often tell children to be quiet, but that is not the only important use of that word.

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Many children who are emerging communicators have difficulty with loud noises. They may experience pain, fear, discomfort, or disorientation when loud noises are present. Loud noises often happen at school, and students need ways to tell adults and peers what they need. Teaching QUIET is a way to help students advocate for themselves in noisy situations that may be scary or overwhelming.

This week we are learning the word PUSH in Teacher Norma’s classroom. (We learned the word ON last week, which I will catch up with in another post. Last week got away from me!)

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PUSH is not quite as common as other CORE words, but it is a very useful word for children, as it is a frequently used word during play.

Activities to practice PUSH:

  • Swings – PUSH on the swings. PUSH more! PUSH again! PUSH up! PUSH can be combined with other CORE words to make some great 2-word combinations.
  • Playing – PUSH a toy car! PUSH a ball! PUSH a button on a toy! There are tons of opportunities to use the word PUSH during play.
  • Behavior – less fun, but we can work on PUSH in situations where students are being inappropriately physical with peers or family members. Pair PUSH with a negation CORE word (no, stop, not) to teach appropriate behaviors, and help students to understand what behaviors are inappropriate.
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“push” in American Sign Language

You can, and probably should, use the word PUSH in more than one modality. Using spoken words (verbal) is the easiest for most parents and teachers, but pairing the word with the ASL sign, or with an AAC icon, makes the teaching more powerful. Use whatever modalities your child responds to the best!

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Our book this week is Don’t Push The Button! by Bill Cotter. Larry the monster tells the readers “Don’t push the button!”, and then of course the button gets pushed, and the monster cycles through different silly skin colors until finally he gets back to his original purple skin. Fun! There are lots of chances to pair PUSH with other CORE words (“not push” “push more” “push again”) as well as using PUSH with yes/no questions (Should we push the button?).

Keep PUSHing on with CORE words, and I’ll be back next week!

no

Our CORE word this week in Teacher Norma’s classroom is the word “NO”.

You may wonder why we are teaching students to say “no.” Isn’t that word something we wish students would say less often? Why should we encourage students to use such a negative word?

There are many reasons to teach the word “no.” One of the big reasons is because every person, including students who have significant disabilities, or who are using AAC, have the right to say “no” to actions, objects, or activities which they do not want. In the Communication Bill of Rights, developed by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities in 2016, the right to say “no” is the third item on the list of rights. It is a basic human right.

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Another reason to teach students how to say “no” is because when students do not know how to say “no”, they will use behavior to tell us “no” in other ways. Tantrums, aggression, throwing, biting, hitting, shutting down, passive resistance, and crying are only some of the ways that students will tell us “no” without words. Students deserve to be taught socially appropriate ways to say “no” using words, so that they do not need to resort to the anti-social behavioral ways to communicate their rejection.

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How do you teach students to say “no”? “No” often does not make sense without the option to say “yes” as well. One of my most-used apps is the Yes/No app by I Can Do Apps. It is a very simple app with only one screen – a large “yes” button, and a large “no” button. The app has voice-output, so it says “yes” or “no” when each button is touched. The app is FREE.

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One of the easiest questions to start with for yes/no is the question “Do you want _______?”. Asking students about their personal preferences is more concrete than other kinds of yes/no questions, and gives them the ability to make a choice, and to reject things they don’t want. Start with one thing you know your child likes (food items, toys, etc), and one thing you know they do not want (undesirable foods, toys). Offer one, and then the other. If your child pushes away the thing they don’t want, you can model using their communication mode to reject. You could say “Oh! It looks like you mean “no” [touch the AAC, use the “no” sign, say the word]”. If it is appropriate, help your child to indicate “no” by touching/signing/saying “no”, and then immediately remove the thing they don’t like. When you offer the thing they do want, repeat the same prompts for the word “yes.”

Another way to teach the word “no” is using books! There are several which are particularly good.

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The book “Where’s Spot?” is a classic lift-the-flap book, where a mother dog looks for her puppy. Is Spot under the rug? No! Is Spot inside the clock? No! Is Spot in the basket? Yes!

“No, David!” is another classic, written by David Shannon as an autobiographical children’s book. In the book, David does naughty thing after naughty thing, and every page he is told “NO, David!”. By the end of the book David is in tears, but his mother reassures him that yes, she still loves him. I love this book for the many opportunities to practice saying “no”!

One more book that gives many chances to use “no” is the book “Is Your Mama a Llama?” On each page, Lloyd the Llama asks one of his friends if their mama is a llama. Every page until the last one, his friends say “no”. So many chances to practice!

more

The word MORE is very, very important! Students who are emerging communicators are often working on requesting, and teaching “more” is a high-value way to do it! The word “more” can be used to request either quantity or continuation.

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Students can request “more” of any thing – fish crackers, Legos, juice, balls, pizza, bubbles, lunch… any object that they may want to have more of. To practice “more” with food items, give your child a small amount of something they like to eat or drink. When they finish it, wait for them to ask for “more” (or help them ask for “more” if this is a new skill) before you give them another small portion. Using smaller portions allows your child to have more chances to practice the word “more”, without ruining their appetite for supper.

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Students can also request “more” of any action – tickling, bouncing, running, swimming, playing, watching YouTube, playing with iPads… any action that they want to continue! To practice “more” with actions, begin a game or activity that your child enjoys. At a natural pausing point, stop the game and wait for them to ask for “more.” If this is a new skill, you will need to help them ask for “more” (using picture symbols, signs, an iPad app, or verbal words) until they learn how to request “more” independently. If this word is a familiar word for your child, then perhaps give them one reminder, and then wait patiently. Playing with another adult who can show how to ask for “more” is also a good strategy.

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If you are using an iPad and know how to use the guided access setting, a great way to practice “more” is to set the guided access timer to limit the number of minutes the iPad will work before the screen locks. That is a fantastic opportunity for your child to request “more” iPad, and for you to oblige by turning it on again!

more

“more” in American Sign Language

“More” is a very common “baby sign” – manual signs taught to infants before they can talk. This is because it is a developmentally early cognitive concept, that many babies and children with intellectual disabilities benefit from learning. Instead of needing to know the name of whatever they just had, they can simply ask for “more” and get it! “More” is a multipurpose word, which are the best kind of words for students who have difficulty learning many new words all at once.

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Our book this week is “Just One More” by Jennifer Hansen Rolli. In it, a little girl named Ruby always wants “just one more” of everything! One more minute in bed, one more hairy thingy, or one more push on the swing! She asks for “just one more” scoop of ice cream, but that turns out badly, so at the end of the book she decides that sometimes, just one is plenty.

We will continue learning MORE core words next week!

like

Our word of the week is LIKE! This is a particularly wonderful word. “Like” is a word we can use to comment about what we think. “Like” and “not like” are powerful ways to comment.

Students with complex communication needs are almost always taught to request; “I want _____.” While “I want…” is an important phrase, it is very limiting if we *only* teach students to request things. Communication involves more than getting what you want! We tell each other what we think (commenting), we say what we don’t want (protesting), we identify what we are experiencing (labeling). The word “like” is an entry into commenting, which is one of the pillars of language use.

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Our book this week is a newer book, and deeper than most of the books I use. Every page has the sentence “I like _________” or “I don’t like ____________”. The last word of the sentence is something that western children often play with or enjoy – shoes, cars, bricks – and the spread on each page features a privileged child playing with the item on one side, and an underprivileged child performing child labor with the item on the other side. It is a thought-provoking look at childhood in different parts of the world, and a reminder that every child has the right to play, to receive an education, and to have a life of dignity. The last pages of the book have information about poverty and child labor, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

like

“like” in American Sign Language

At home, model the word “like” any time you experience something pleasant! You can use any modality to model “like” (picture symbols, manual sign, words).

  • Foods: I like cereal. I like coffee. I like eggnog. I like cookies. I like ice cream. I like carrots (really!).
  • Toys: I like legos. I like my teddy bear. I like my iPad.
  • Activities: I like jumping. I like watching movies. I like swimming. I like reading.
  • Places: I like my house. I like the park. I like the gym. I like school. I like Starbucks.
  • People: I like grandma. I like my dog. I like my teacher. I like my friend. I like you!

What do you like?

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A ‘who’ question is asking about a person. I usually work on ‘who’ questions after students become good at answering ‘what’ questions. Giving an answer that is a person is still very concrete, and students can learn that when the question begins with “who?”, the answer must be a person.

Students in my intensive support classrooms often need visual supports to be successful answering questions, so having picture choices for answers helps them both to figure out how to answer, and to show us what they know.

I made a Boardmaker Online WHO question activity with visual answers, similar to the one I made for WHAT questions, which has been getting lots of use in the intensive support classrooms this month. To access this activity for free, you will need a Boardmaker Online subscription. You can search for it in the community activities, or find it in the Ms Petersen SLP group.

If you do not have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can find a printable version of the WHO questions with visual answers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very helpful).

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A ‘what’ question is asking about a thing or an action. Typically developing children learn to answer simple ‘what’ questions by around age 3 (example: “What is your name?”). However, students with language disorders can struggle with answering questions. For students who are “emerging communicators” (just beginning to use words or pictures to communicate), learning to answer questions can be very, very difficult!

I have several students this year who are ready to work on answering WHAT questions, and who are just learning to use words (verbal or pictured) to communicate. For these students, the typical WH-question materials that I have used in the past are too complicated, and do not give them enough support. I needed to make more materials, which could give my students more clues to help them learn to answer questions.

Boardmaker Online is a resource I have been learning to use. I finally got my district to pay for a subscription this year, and have been loving it! It replaces the old Boardmaker disks that I have been using (last updated in 2006!). The most useful feature is that when you create interactive activities, they can be played on a FREE iPad app, so that students can use the activities over and over!

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My first activity was for WHAT questions, with visual answers that students can chose from. This allows them to show me if they know the answer, and also supports students who are learning to answer these questions, because there are only 3 options to chose from. If they chose the wrong answer the app tells them that it was wrong, and gives them another chance to find the right answer. It has been working FABULOUSLY for many of my students who love using iPads.

Another neat thing about Boardmaker Online is that you can search for activities that other people have made, and save them for your own use. I made the WHAT interactive activity public, and put it in a Ms Petersen SLP group to make it easy to find. If you have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can add it to your activities and use it for free!

Some of my students do better with low-tech paper materials instead of using the iPad, so I also made a printable version of the same questions, which I laminated and bound into a book for the teachers of those students. I wanted to give away the book as a freebie, but one of the restrictions of using Boardmaker Online is that I am not supposed to give away PDF versions of materials that I create using the Boardmaker symbols, because of the copyright laws. However, I am allowed to sell materials, so long as I credit Mayer-Johnson as the source of the graphics.

In order to respect the law 🙂 and also share what I’ve made, I have two versions of the printable WHAT questions. If you have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can download the printable version for free off of the Boardmaker Online website. When you logon, search for “Ms Petersen SLP” in the groups, and when you join, you will find all of the activities I’ve made so far to share.

If you do not have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can still get the printable version of WHAT questions with visual answers for emerging communicators from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Further reading:

(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very useful).

This month in Teacher Norma’s classroom our language circle time is focusing on body parts. Knowing body parts is important for students because it impacts self-care (getting dressed, personal hygiene) as well as a student’s ability to tell a caregiver if they are hurt or ill. For students who are not yet using words expressively, it is still important to understand body words when parents, teachers, or doctors use them. “Stick out your tongue”, “Give me your hand”, “Arm in the jacket”, etc. Body part vocabulary is important!

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We have been playing with Potato Head toys during circle time. I have picture symbols (sometimes called PECs) with different body parts, and each student gets to choose which part they will add to the potato. Together we build the whole potato! I let students put the body parts anywhere they want, though they usually put them in the “normal” places.

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Our book this month is “My Nose, Your Nose” by Melanie Walsh. It is a book about how children are similar and different, using both body parts and things they like or don’t like. The book touches on skin tone, hair texture, but also things like loving chocolate cake, or not liking shampoo. It also covers a good chunk of the major body parts, while still feeling like a storybook rather than an “educational” book. 🙂

 

And of course, who could talk about body parts without singing the Hokey Pokey? In our class we skip the “left” and “right” and focus instead on the basic body parts – arm, leg, hand, food, head, tongue, ear… Students take turns choosing which body part we will sing next, and we do it all together.

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Answering yes/no questions is a very important skill, especially for children with limited verbal skills. If a child can answer yes/no questions, it expands how much they can tell an adult or caregiver almost exponentially. Yes and No are so powerful!

Yes/No are also ideal target words because they can be expressed simply, with or without verbal words. Children can nod, vocalize, or look happy to express “yes.” They can shake their head, look unhappy, or push away to express “no.” Yes/no questions can apply across many different settings, from snack time (do you want a cracker?) to recess (do you want the ball?) to bedtime (do you want your red pajamas?). They allow parents and caregivers to offer choices, and children to have more control over their lives by expressing opinions. Being able to answer yes/no questions can reduce frustration for both children and parents, especially for children with communication difficulties.

Using gestures or facial expressions is often how children start expressing their preferences. Sometimes making a face is enough, but sometimes the rejection can be pushing or throwing, which we don’t want! Starting with what we know the child wants to tell us, we can build those preferences into more conventional ways to indicate yes/no. If a child is using a push-away to express rejection, we can pair that with a sign or word to help them learn more socially acceptable ways to get their message across. Adults modeling yes/no in situations that children are currently in is very important for emerging communicators to learn how to use yes/no themselves.

There are different kinds of yes/no questions, also. Yes/no questions that are preference-based (example: Do you want a cookie?) are easier than fact-based yes/no questions (example: Is this a cookie?). Students typically master preference-based yes/no questions before they can answer fact-based yes/no questions.
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Using visual supports is essential for students who have difficulty with yes/no. The graphic above is one I use every day. I have two cards – one with “yes” and one with “no.” When I ask a student a question, I hold up the cards so they can see their options for answering. It helps cue students who may not remember the words independently, but can point to the answer they mean with the visual support. This can reduce the amount of echolalia that students may use (repeating the question instead of answering it). A student can say Yes/No, point to the word they want, or even look at the word that they mean.

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This month we are reading Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman during circle time. Each time the baby bird meets a new creature, I ask the question “Is the [cat/dog/cow/boat] his mother?” The board gives visual supports, along with pictures for the “yes” and “no” for modeling and pointing.

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Other books ideal for working on yes/no:

Additional resources:

Lastly, here is a video with a catchy song about yes/no, made by an SLP working on a kickstarter project. There are words that pop on the screen about their project, which is a bit annoying, but the song is pretty fun and could be engaging for a student who doesn’t mind the words, but enjoys music and puppets.

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Spring break!March 30th, 2018
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